Saturday, July 2, 2016

Detente in Colorado's Liquor Law Battle

Reason has prevailed regarding liquor sales in Colorado, and the state is going to take the slow road to "fixing what wasn't broke" to begin with. The Denver Post reported yesterday that the pro-corporate monoply supermarket chains have ended the planned ballot initiative that would have allowed the sale of full strength beer and wine in grocery stores. The corporate lobby behind this plan to monopolize liquor sales was called "Your Choice Colorado," and it depended on the naivete of Colorado's many new transplants from other states where supermarkets sell booz. For people outside of Colorado, this may seem strange, but the state has a unique culture of requiring independent liquor licenses for stores that goes back to Prohibition.

This fall Colorado was expected to vote on, and likely pass, a measure to allow all grocery stores across the state to sell wine and full-strength. Friday, the campaign announced it was ending petition-gathering to get on the ballot. The news leaked out Thursday evening when The Denver Post obtained a memo hung on a King Soopers breakroom bulletin board instructing store employees to cease efforts to collect signatures and take down campaign signs.
Yet, just because the local Safeway or King Soopers doesn't sell beer and wine that doesn't mean booze is hard to buy. Colorado is home to roughly 1,600 independent liquor stores which are conveniently located near almost every supermarket/retail area in the state. And the independent liquor stores are specialty shops with trained staff who sell one thing and are therefore much more able to assist customers in purchasing beer, wine, and spirits. And, I will admit that when I first moved from Illinois where booze is sold in the supermarket, I was a little surprised and even felt inconvenienced. Yet rather than demanding that an entire state/region change to meet my needs, I came to fully appreciate that value that comes when we Keep Colorado Local.

Colorado, which has been called "Beer's Napa Valley" because of the rise of an incredibly productive craft beer industry, is home to many independent producers of the nectar of Dionysus. With so many liquor stores to choose from, consumers will find that they can always find new and interesting products by simply shopping at different stores. That's not possible when the predominant sellers of a product have one ordering form for hundreds or thousands of stores across vast areas. That limited supply practice is what is called the Walmart-fication of the retail world, and it doesn't compliment an independent artisan craft spirit in a place like Colorado.

Granted, the new bill will eventually expand full liquor sales to supermarket chains, but it does it slowly, and it prevents one large corporate chain from driving one independent store out of business across the street. And that's a great benefit to Colorado.

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